Alice F. Downs died on Saturday, April 30, 2016 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
Visitation will be held from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14, 2016 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. Celebration of life will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 15, 2016 at First Christian Church.
She was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on August 19, 1936, to Faye and William Edgar O’Daniel.
Alice was passionate about her immediate and extended family. One of her last statements was to see her youngest granddaughter in her hospital room and say, “I love you, Photina.”
Alice is survived by her husband, Cal, professor emeritus from KU; her son, Kevin Downs in Arlington, Virginia; daughter, Allyson Downs Adrian, son-in-law, Steve Adrian; granddaughters, Yazmine Adrian, Gretchen Adrian, Marcena Adrian, and Photina Adrian, all from Arlington, Virginia; and brother, Bill O’Daniel, Denver, Colorado and many other relatives in Louisiana and Texas.
Alice and Cal were married in Geneva, Switzerland, with a second ceremony in Nice, France. They made their first home in Vicenza, Italy. Alice loved languages and cultures and adventure – together they made many trips to the Orient, Europe, and Mideast; and their lives were enriched by the many friends they made while living in the UK, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, and Germany.
The love of music permeated her entire life, and gave her soul a lift. She started playing piano at the age of 3. At 15, she won a piano contest and played with the New Orleans Symphony. In high school and college she studied with internationally renowned pianist Silvio Scionti, and played throughout Texas and Louisiana. After graduating from North Texas University in Piano, she studied for two years on a Fulbright Scholarship in Paris, France, with Jacques Fevrier, a student of Ravel. Returning to the USA, she earned an M.A. degree at Michigan State University, again studying with Silvio Scionti. It was there that she met her husband Cal while playing the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto—it was love at first hearing. Living in Maryland, she studied with Miecesau Muntz, from Julliard and developed a close friendship with pianist Ann Shein. Through the years, Alice played solo concerts in the USA, France, Holland, Italy, Costa Rica, and Australia. as well as performing with Orchestras in Michigan, Illinois, Washington D.C., Louisiana, Kansas, and Texas.
As a faculty member at KU for 29 years, Alice frequently collaborated with Edward Laut, Larry Maxey, Vince Gnojek, Rita Sloan, and Linda Maxey. She was excited to premier several pieces composed by John Pozdro. And a favorite memory was playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue both with Robert Foster and the KU Symphonic Band and later with Linda Maxey accompanying her on Alice’s final KU recital in 2003.
She was passionate about teaching. Even in college, she gave lessons to piano students in order to pay for her own lessons with her beloved Silvio Scionti. He was her great mentor in music and later in life she was thrilled to perform memorial concerts in his honor in Sicily at the invitation of the Italian Academy of Arts and Science and Letters. It was in Chicago, however, that she studied under Guy Duckworth who instilled in her a love of specific teaching methods and added that sense of discovery and dynamism to her teaching. Her methods were appreciated by her university students and The Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center gave her an Outstanding Teacher Award at KU.
In addition to teaching at KU, Alice also taught piano privately and was active in the Lawrence music community as a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, Federated Music Teachers, and Lawrence Music Club. As president of Friends of Music, she oversaw scholarships and helped start the Lawrence Civic Choir and the Lawrence Symphony. She and Janet Marquis founded Concerts for Young People which sponsored opera and classical music concerts for students of elementary school age. The operas included Hansel and Gretel, Magic Flute, Don Pasquale, and Cinderella. One of her proudest achievements was to commission John Pozdro and John Clifford to write a children’s opera, Malooley and the Fear Monster, which was performed throughout Kansas.
A deeply spiritual person, Alice was an active teacher and participant in churches wherever she lived. She saw God’s goodness in people and was one of the most gracious and non-judgmental people one could meet. Her insights enabled her to be an open and genuine friend and the family appreciated the loyalty that friends showered on her. Her faith and grace were the resources she drew on to enjoy 10 years of life following paralysis from a stroke which required 24-hour care. She lived her life with grace and charm and, despite the stroke, she lived the abundant life going to hear the Kansas City Symphony and celebrating good times with family and friends.
Memorials are suggested for Medical Ministries International, the KU School of Music, or the Carl Preyer Scholarships by Lawrence Music Club and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.